Call Me Ishmael belongs to a series of columns that Indiana began in 1964, and modified with the addition of gold paint in 1998. The other works are My Mother, My Father, Dillinger, Bob’s Column, and Call Me Indiana. These columns were first exhibited with wheels in 2005 at the exhibition Robert Indiana: Wood, Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York.
This sculpture references the opening line of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, spoken by the sole survivor of Captain Ahab’s doomed pursuit of the white whale. Three of Indiana’s works from the early 1960s also take Moby-Dick as a subject matter: the herm Ahab (1960–62), and the paintings Melville (1961) and The Melville Triptych (1962).